I’ve been talking about the steps in writing a business plan for the past couple of weeks. From that eureka moment, you had to the moment you visualize your success in a couple of years. Now, I want to talk about marketing strategy.
I have to confess that the first time I heard about marketing, I panicked. I wished I had a mentor two decades ago when I was opening my child-care business!
A market strategy is simply a plan concerning your product, the competition, and how to measure if you are heading in the right direction. That is, how will you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, and how you will develop customer loyalty, so they keep buying from you, or hiring you. Above all, the market strategy highlights the strengths of your business and what sets your business apart from your competition.
Although the business plan forces you to take a good look at how you want to run your business and the necessary steps to succeed, the marketing strategy examines your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, market share, and any barriers to your industry.
This step is the longest one in the business plan. However, it is crucial for your success. You can’t afford to skip it and jump into business on a hunch or a half-baked plan. Talk about your business idea with someone who can give you unbiased advice and point you in the right direction, find a mentor.
For what is worth, use online sources to have a general idea of the market, still, don’t get mesmerized of your findings, talk with prospective customers, suppliers, and others in similar businesses to gain inside knowledge about the pain and gains of what you are looking for. The more people involved, the more ideas you can test and advert problems you didn’t even think about.
Try to gather information from sources other than the internet, such as trade organizations and journals, magazines and newspapers, Census data, and demographic profiles. Use your local library, in Houston, we have “Book a Librarian” service where they spend time helping you research an array of databases for your business plan. You can also contact chambers of commerce, from vendors who sell to your industry or from government agencies.
The Pricing Strategy
How do you plan to set prices? Not every business can go for a low price as the differentiator; instead, you should focus on a competitive price (average).
Look at the competition. Is your pricing strategy cost-based? Adding all the costs of manufacturing your product PLUS a margin to make a profit. Is your pricing strategy value-based? Average price plus a margin based on services provided and brand.
Do you plan to set prices on how much your competition charges? Or a lower price to enter the market but planning to rise it later as you position yourself? Perhaps your pricing is a constant sale price, that is, a markup that allows you to have the product/service on sale at all times.
If you are a startup, the most natural pricing strategy is cost-based, but do your research.
Remember that pricing includes: promotion, distribution, and operations. Moreover, your pricing strategy needs to attract customers to buy your product/service and reflect its value.
The best way to improve is to learn from your role models, in life, and in business. When opening a new business, look for companies you admire and inspire you to get into the business, also, research and study establishments that offer the products or services that you intend to sell.
Create a table with the three competitors and make a thorough compare and contrast kind of essay exercise. Include products, price, quality, customer service, sales method, reputation, social media, and website.
After you are done with this, write down how you are different or similar to your competitors.
Focus on what makes you unique and separate from your competition.
Contrary to a traditional marketing strategy, like the one I just mentioned, the digital marketing strategy differs mainly on the elevator pitch and how to convince customers to buy your products/services.
Traditionally, you have about 10 to 15 seconds to pitch your idea and grab your client’s attention, however, in the digital era, you have 7 seconds tops to convince your audience to stay on the page and not close the browser or keep scrolling their feed.
What can you say in 7 seconds?
Not an easy task, but with practice and lots of drafts, you will nail it. Look at your competitor’s website or social media and write down what are your differences, what do they offer that you don’t.
- Describe your product/service.
- What is unique about your product/service. How do you stand out from the crowd?
- What your customers say about you.
Set SMART goals.
For your marketing strategy to work, you must create goals, not only “to-do lists”. Sure, lists help you go around your day and move forward from one topic to another on the business plan, but without goals, you cannot measure if you are accomplishing your mission and your vision.
When you combine the elements of SMART goals, you have a higher chance of success.
Specific. Focus on one clear, defined metric.
Measurable. Data pointing you are going in the right direction.
Aspirational. The golden pot at the end of the rainbow, where you want to be in X years.
Realistic. Grounding your aspirational goals to milestones, make them achievable.
Time-bound. In the digital world, everything moves fast, your goals should too.
Digital Marketing goals
Every business should include digital marketing goals within their business plan, doesn’t matter if it’s a traditional brick and mortar, online, or a combination of both.
Remember that business goals are marketing goals. There are more business goals unique to each niche and industry beyond sales: sustainability, advocacy, do good.
How to start a marketing strategy
- Use polls to identify your ideal client.
- Bundle two demographics from your audience (gender/age, geography/age, geography/gender)
- Select the right channel for each audience. (Blog, Email Marketing, Social Media, YouTube, Pay-Per-Click)